The Los Angeles Dodgers are a smart team. They're usually two steps ahead, waiting to pounce at the perfect time. But Friday's non-tender deadline has some fans asking questions about the team's future decisions.
Andrew Friedman and the front office tendered a contract to every arbitration-eligible player in the organization. That means the team is, for now, returning 13 players from last season.
Some are essential. Walker Buehler, Will Smith and Brusdar Graterol are all among the best in the game at their specific jobs when healthy. But the Dodgers had an opportunity to clear more salary and roster spots, by, say, getting rid of Ryan Yarbrough ($3.8 million), Dustin May ($2.4 million) and Yency Almonte ($1.9 million).
Instead, they re-signed Almonte as their third offseason move and kept everybody else. The 40-man roster is currently set at 39 and the Dodgers have far more than one singular move to make this offseason.
Does that mean they're confident in their ability to trade some underwhelming players and/or prospects not at peak value? Are they ready to eat salaries of some guys who may not be effective or won't play at all in 2024?
Dodgers failing to create roster space at non-tender deadline raises questions
For example, all of Michael Grove, Gavin Stone, Diego Cartaya, Michael Busch and Miguel Vargas have seen their stocks pretty much plummet from 2022 to 2023. Dustin May is probably out for the entire 2024 season. And what confidence is there in Andy Pages (injured last year), Jonny DeLuca, Jorbit Vivas, Hunter Feduccia, Gus Varland, Ricky Vanasco, Bryan Hudson and Nick Frasso?
We're genuinely asking, because all of those guys have a 40-man roster spot. This might sound crazy, but at this very moment, the best 26 players out of the Dodgers' current 39 might not be a playoff team. The necessary starting pitching isn't there and the lineup has a number of alarming vacancies.
So with only one spot remaining, the Dodgers must be gearing up to trade a glut of roster fodder and/or prospects, just like the Braves did in their deal for Aaron Bummer with the White Sox.
Atlanta traded five players and cleared multiple 40-man spots for a controllable reliever who wasn't all that good in 2023. That means they're ready to make a few momentous moves. Or at least that's a safe educated guess.
When the Dodgers eventually do that, fans will start feeling better about the offseason outlook. But right now? More of the same in 2024.